World Humanitarian Day

On Sunday, 19th August, we’ll be remembering the UN’s World Humanitarian Day.


Their key theme this year is #NotATarget, reflecting upon the appalling reality that frequently a host of the most vulnerable become targets in armed conflicts around the world. Sometimes people most involved in bringing aid and help to those suffering amidst conflict are, themselves, the targets. The UN are highlighting the ways in which children (girls especially) and women, civilians,  aid workers, displaced people and refugees, journalists, medical workers, schools, ambulances and hospitals are targeted so often and with such deadly consequences.

They are showing us evil.

At a time when we are caught up in the rise of many forces that drag us towards the politics and culture of an increasingly isolationist, my-country-first vision of the world, it’s vital that we affirm a very different story of who we are, where we come from, and where we wish to go. The world’s great faiths have, at our best, consistently affirmed the infinite worth of human life and the need to especially protect and support the vulnerable and those at most risk in our world. As I’ve thought about the UN’s call and read some of the stories they have gathered of those on the world’s front lines I’ve turned to other words as well. In his book The Dignity of Difference, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes:

“One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one… Hope is the knowledge that we can choose; that we can learn from our mistakes and act differently next time; that history is not what Joseph Heller called it, a ‘trashbag of random coincidences blown open by the wind’, but a long, slow journey to redemption, whatever the digressions and false turns along the way.”

I think the UN rests upon a great deal of hope. I think the current state of the world requires a very great deal of hope to feed and fuel and foster our actions so that we turn away from the twilight that labels others as collatoral damage and into the bright sunlight of the love for one another that is God’s gift to us. In another Jew, Jesus the rabbi in Galilee, I believe that God’s profound hope took human flesh and lived amongst us. The attacks the UN are highlighting in their campaign turn precious children of God, which I believe everyone is, into pawns in games of power and ideology waged by some to benefit a few. The Bible tells first the Jewish story and then the Christian story of what God says into such contexts. When Jesus was asked to sum up life in all its fullness, life obedient to the will of God, he reached back deep into his Jewish tradition and scripture and found the summary that still stands today as test and possibility:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

That’s the text I want to hold in my heart, and carry through in my living and supporting, as I honour those the UN is honouring, remember those the UN is remembering, and encourage those the UN is encouraging. Evil doesn’t speak the last word, ever.

-Neil Thorogood, Principal

 

Ladies of Quality and Distinction


In this, the centenary year of women’s suffrage, the Cheshunt Foundation has been asked to join in with a fascinating celebration of influential women from the 1720s and 1730s- the 21 ‘ladies of quality and distinction” who helped philanthropist Thomas Coram set up his Foundling Hospital in London. Long before women were given the right to vote, these ladies were influential in helping Coram secure a Royal Charter for his Foundling Hospital, which was set up to support and care for some of London’s abandoned ‘foundling children’.

One of the ladies was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who also founded Trevecca College for young men to train for ministry- which later moved to Hertfordshire and became Cheshunt College.

Portrait of Selina Shirley, Countess of Huntingdon.

  These marvellous ladies are being celebrated this Autumn with a remarkable exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London. The Collections Manager, Alison Duke, came to visit the College recently to look at the painting in situ, and to discuss how best to transport it to London for the exhibition. Alison has written about her visit for Art Funding here .

We look forward to seeing the Countess surrounded by her peers- or, strictly speaking, her Peeresses- on September! The exhibition opens to the public in September and will run through into January 2019.


To find out more about the exhibition at the Foundling Museum, have a look at the Foundling Museum website

…And to find out more about the 21 Ladies, and about Thomas Coram, visit the website of Coram, the charity which continues their work today.

To see all the oil paintings at Westminster online, visit: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/keyword:westminster-college-Cambridge


 

Blog by Helen Weller- Westminster College Archivist.

Anglia Ruskin University appoints Revd Canon Dr Andrew Todd as Senior Lecturer and Director of the Professional Doctorate in Pratical Theology

The Cambridge Theological Federation is delighted to confirm that Reverend Dr Andrew Todd has been appointed to take up the Anglia Ruskin University post that falls vacant upon Zoe’s retirement.


Andrew Todd is currently co-coordinator of the Centre for Contemporary Spirituality, Sarum College in Salisbury.

Previously Director of the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies (and an Honorary Research Fellow of Cardiff University), he is a practical theologian and ethnographer, who has been published widely in the chaplaincy studies field.  Earlier in his career, Andrew was Vice-Principal and Director of Studies for the East Anglican Ministerial Training Course (now ERMC), and was also President of the Cambridge Theological Federation 2000-2001.

This post will draw significantly on his research in practical theology and the sociology of contemporary religion and spirituality. He is looking forward to working with doctoral students as they develop as practical theologians in interaction with their professional practice; and to the privilege of nurturing students in their research and in skills of critical and creative theological reflection. Andrew’s appointment to this role represents an opportunity, not only to develop his work in practical theology, but also to return to East Anglia and be nearer to his family.

His new post comes at the same time as one for his wife Catherine, which will also be based in East Anglia.


Publications: John Caperon, Andrew Todd & James Walters (eds.) A Christian Theology of Chaplaincy (Jessica Kingsley, 2017); Chris Swift, Mark Cobb and Andrew Todd (eds.), A Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies (Ashgate, 2015); Jonathan Prye, Peter Sedgewick and Andrew Todd (eds.), Critical Care: Delivering Spiritual Care in Healthcare Contexts (Jessica Kingsley, 2015); Andrew Todd (ed.), Military Chaplaincy in Contention: Chaplains, Churches, and the Morality of Conflict (Ashgate, 2013).

 

 

THE SHARK ASCENDING

I recently happened upon an interesting image from 1877 entitled “Shark Attacking A Boatman”, in our series of The Children’s Messenger in the library here. It’s an illustration from one of a series of articles by Rev. Archibald Hewan, describing the journey to the Old Calabar Mission, and this one is specifically about “the sharks at Lagos”.

The Children’s Messenger  was a monthly magazine produced by the Presbyterian Church of England for young members, and, as well as moral stories and Bible studies, it included many letters from missionaries describing life in far parts of the world – and the Messenger tried to accompany its articles with illustrations. Nowadays, television and photography and zoos and the internet mean that we are familiar with wildlife from around the world; but it seems pretty clear, looking at this picture from 140 years ago, that it was drawn by someone who had never actually seen a real shark.

This shark has a pointed snout and (rather strangely placed) gills, but the eyes and head are more like those of a seal. Its fins are reminiscent both of the fins of a bony fish, and of the flippers like a sea lion or a walrus- but are nothing like the smooth cartilage fins of a shark. It has a leaf-shaped tail straight out of a Mediaeval bestiary, and strangest of all, it has fur!

Archibald Hewan (1832-1883) was a Jamaican medical missionary to Calabar in Nigeria, appointed in 1854; but the artist is unknown.

The anatomical descriptions in Hewan’s text are very vague, if you don’t already know what a shark looks like: it only says “Look at his flat head. You can’t see his mouth; that is quite under” and later refers to his “great eyes”, “great fins” and “great tail”…though if you look closely, you can see that someone has also told the artist that sharks have more than one row of teeth.

However, if the artist had only heard or read descriptions of sharks before beginning his illustration, then he’s not alone in the task of trying to draw an animal he’s never laid eyes on. Albrecht Durer’s woodcut of an enthusiastically-armoured rhinoceros from 1515 is one of the best known pictures of an animal by an artist who has never seen his subject. Another famous example is George Stubbs’s portrait of a kangaroo, with a very long tail and no pouch, held at the Royal Museums Greenwich, which was based on descriptions given to the artist by Joseph Banks on his return from voyaging with Captain Cook in 1771, and painted soon afterwards. So our shark is in illustrious company!

 

Blog by Helen Weller- Archivist

 

Valediction- Goodbye “God be with You”

Goodbye to all.

As this academic year draws to a close, it is also time for us to say goodbye to many people who have been with us over the years.

On Friday 15th June, our annual evening of Valediction took place. We celebrated the hard work of students and teaching staff, who have worked tirelessly throughout the year bringing great results all round.

The night began with a service in the Chapel. Joyous hymns, readings of thanksgiving, and blessings to those continuing on in to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments marked the end of the academic year for Westminster College.

Revd. Samantha White read a beautiful Sermon titled ‘A Firm Footing’, including the meaning of ‘goodbye’. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary the definition of Valediction is “the act of saying goodbye, especially formally, or a formal speech in which someone says goodbye”.

To be of firm footing, requires a keeping close to Christ. It is so easy, when times are busy, or there are decisions to be taken, or others expectations for you seem to cloud your judgment as you care for their needs, to give up the spiritual disciplines that help to underpin your faith and that have helped you to be resilient while you have been here.

‘So Valedictorians, ‘Goodbye, farewell, Auf Wedersein and Tuss’. ‘Goodbye’, is an adaptation of the phrase ‘God be by you’ and that is exactly what we wish for you.’

Following the service, we all joined together in a meal and celebrations when the successful students came to the stage to collect their leaving certificate. Followed on by several speeches to thank various members of staff and wishing farewell to Revd. Dr Yak-hwee Tan, tutoring New Testament studies for the past three years and Liz Cazwell, our Chaplain.

A special mention must go out to the amazing Tutorial team, who have worked consistently hard throughout the academic year to provide high quality support and assistance to the students and Senatus.

Last but by no means least, we cannot thank the Hospitality staff enough for their exquisite meal and attentive service throughout the evening. Thank you not only for this evening, but for the entire year where you provide us with only the best food and impeccable service, filling the needs of all who enter our community.

A wonderful evening enjoyed by all.

Congratulations, and well done to: 

Those who will continue on in to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments:

Ted & Cristina

Jo & Bernard

Helen & Tessa

Alison & Paul

Josh & Gillian

Those who have successfully completed or who will soon complete their studies:

Jane , Jill & Lan

Those who have shared in Westminster’s community on sabbatical this year:

Iain & Peter

Stephanie, Ron & Bronnie

Allan, Terry & Karlotta

Doug & Barbara

Once again, congratulations to everyone for their successes over the year. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours. 

 

 

Employee Profile: Meet our team!

Thinking of Westminster College as your future employer? We thought it would be nice for you to meet all our support team, and show off all the amazing things they do for the college and why they like working here!

Meet Emma, our PA to the Bursar and Office Manager.

Name: Emma Brown
Title: PA to the Bursar and Office Manager
Start Date: September 2009
Promotions: 2
Job Title Changes / Transfers: 3

What I like about Westminster…
No two days are ever the same.
It’s a bit of a mixed blessing this one! As a relatively small organisation, we’re quite a tight knit family and it means we all pitch in wherever help is needed; many of us hold more than one title, and those who do have one title have a fairly diverse set of things to do. Those of us who’ve been around for a few years have knowledge about things which might not be anything to do with our job title. If something needs to get done, we’ll find a way of doing it, and doing it well.

Working for a non-profit organisation.
Any surplus is invested back into either the people or the building. I’m really proud of that; it makes the occasionally long, challenging days very worthwhile. Every penny we make enables us to invest in the future.

We’re very much an equal opportunity employer.
We’ve a very diverse team here, with people from a multitude of countries, all bringing their own unique experiences to add to the Westminster experience. The thing which stands out most for me, as a woman in management, is that our current management team has more women than men – that is unusual even in these times, but most particularly in a Cambridge college. We invest in our people, so it is natural to see internal promotions or transfers; I started as a temp for 2 weeks. Since then, with my most recent role change being from PA to the Principal to PA to the Bursar back in October 2015, I’ve had quite a few changes within what I do as part of my dual roles of Office Manager and PA as the college and the team have grown. I’m also really proud to work for an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer, which is one of only two Cambridge colleges which pays the Living Wage, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation. That’s phenomenal!

We’re not afraid of change.
We don’t “do something that way because it’s always been done that way”. It’s important that we acknowledge our history and legacy – why we’ve done something that way before – but it’s also important to constantly reform. Both as part of the United Reformed Church, and as a forward thinking organisation! I started here when we had 2 full time members on Reception (including me), opening the building at 8.30am and closing up as we left at 4.30pm, closed at weekends. We’re now open 7am to 11pm, seven days a week and I manage a team of 5 to cover reception. Back when I started, we didn’t have any en-suite bedrooms – it was all shared facilities along draughty corridors – and our building was beautiful but in need of some serious updating in many different ways. After raising £7 million, we underwent a major building refurbishment and we’ve now got 38 bedrooms and 2 cottages, all en-suite. Gone are the days where we had an occasional overnight guest alongside our students. The extra income from B&B goes back into keeping Westminster sustainable for our students and the URC, and into ensuring we look after our Grade 2 listed building – she’s a gentle creature and we need to nurture and protect her!

The food!
I’m not going to lie, a lot of us put on a few pounds when we start working here! The food is delicious and I get fed a very tasty two course lunch every day during the week. They cater for my rather weird dietary requirements; though I should try harder to resist pudding, making the healthy choice is incredibly difficult when you’ve got Igor’s chocolate brownie in front of you…

What an average day is like…
There’s no such thing! I oversee Reception, and whilst we certainly have daily tasks to do, our focus is customer service, be that interactions with our students as they collect their post, welcoming in a contractor arriving to service a piece of plant, directing conference delegates to their meeting room or checking in our B&B guests. People, by their nature, are all different and have different needs and expectations. We try to anticipate what they need and exceed their expectations. That, in turn, makes every day different. Then we get queries and challenges that, even with 8 years under my belt, haven’t come up before.

On a ‘bad day’…
They do happen to us all occasionally! I try to do three things.

Firstly, look back to my very first day and remember how many positive changes we’ve been through. Even the very hard changes have lead to new opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.

Secondly, I spend a moment just quietly in our stunning chapel. I’m not a Christian, but I’ve always adored churches and cathedrals, and simply being in such a beautiful, spiritually rich space recharges the batteries.

Thirdly, I visit the sisters. They were rather phenomenal women with a very quirky, rich history and fascinating lives. Their portraits hang in our Dining Hall, so we eat with them looking over us most lunch times. In a world which didn’t allow them to attend university or get a degree, they let very little hold them back from doing exactly what they wanted to; i.e travelling through the desert on camel back fully garbed in their Victorian outfits, complete with their china tea set. I visit them because I like to think that we continue their legacy. They would certainly not have let a singular tricky email (letter?) or long, difficult meeting get to them so why should I?

(PS – the photo is of me on my wedding day in June 2014 and proves that I do, ever so occasionally, wear bright colours)

Keep up to date with our blog to meet more of our team!

A few words from Peter Ball – Director of Church Resource Development

From the 19th-21st January I was at the URC Youth Assembly running workshops and enjoying the opportunity to meet and share with a host of different people from across the denomination.
The first of the new Westminster College Draw Breath and Reflect Upon days took place on March 24th with the theme of Aspects of the cross. The day was a mixture of reflection, personal space and some input from the leaders of the day.  Various options were offered to help people think about how then cross impacts on their daily lives and then space to develop thinking. The pictures are of one participants response in the form of a painting and a cross that we used as part of reflection in the afternoon.

  

Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!


Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!
It is a rich and fascinating experience that has welcomed, celebrated and included me from the day I began. Walking with me as I grow in the journey of faith, whilst also enabling me to learn effectively by supporting my needs.

Studying scripture here has allowed me to work through why I believe what I do and how we are all able to discuss, evolve and change as part of a living tradition responding to a living word. Whilst on retreat together in January 2018, the community were reminded by our Principal,  Neil Thorogood of our connection with many people of faith from the past, present and the future. Whilst reflecting on this I was reminded of the journey that has brought me to Westminster.

Before coming here, I was a store manager for WH Smith in a busy Hospital in East London, whilst also being a Church Elder and volunteer youth leader in the little ‘spare’ time I had. I have been able to bring all my life experiences with me sharing with others.

We learn with and from each other, day by day. With many opportunities to interact with peers from around the world. Whom represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
It is a blessing to be here!”

by Stephen Ansa-Addo – student, Westminster College